Detroit couple Janae and LaQuint Rhodes went back and forth a few times as to whether they wanted a big wedding. They had settled on waiting until June 2019 for something bigger, when they woke up one morning in September and decided they wanted to do it right away. They had no idea their DIY nuptial would become a social media sensation, for better and worse.
“Everything we got for that day was between him and me and my dad — and Facebook Marketplace to be honest,” Janae told Yahoo Lifestyle about their Sept. 22 wedding, which took place on the front lawn of their home with about 50 guests. They prepared the whole whole thing in two weeks and stayed up until 4 a.m. the night before their wedding making the decorations and food themselves. When guests arrived that afternoon, they assigned jobs to anyone who volunteered. They didn’t rehearse anything, and the wrong song played as they walked down the aisle. Janae had lost her voice and could barely manage to say her vows.
“But it was all worth it,” she said, despite their exhaustion. “It was happy, it was joyous, and it was memorable. It was intimate and personal.”
But someone driving by thought they saw something different. They snapped a photo of the wedding setup and shared it on social media, writing, “What in the Detroit hood wedding is this?” The photos went viral, even before the celebration was over, with many making similarly critical comments.
Janae and LaQuint didn’t know they’d become internet famous right away, because something much worse threatened to ruin their wedding day. On the way to take photos downtown after their reception, they got a phone call that LaQuint’s 6-year-old daughter had been in an accident in a pool and almost drowned. They rushed to the hospital. “We spent the night in the hospital in our wedding clothes,” Janae said. “It was immediate parent mode.”
Meanwhile, local radio personality and life coach Randi Rossario saw the viral post. She decided to put her internet radio station, Oh So Radio, and her social media reach to good use. “The life coach in me was like, ‘Let me let me help these people and let me let me see what I can do, because I know how I would feel in that situation,'” Rossario told Yahoo. “It wasn’t that they needed another wedding. I thought that they deserved another wedding.”
She immediately posted what she called the #DetroitReceptionChallenge, asking listeners, followers, and wedding vendors to step up and do something for the couple. The Rhodeses found out about their unwanted fame at around the same time Rossario issued her challenge.
“We were shocked and appalled,” LaQuint told Yahoo. “Seriously? It was just unbelievable. Where do you get negativity when we were embracing love and happiness? That’s what we thought that mattered the most.”
After a few days, when his daughter was out of the woods and improving, the couple agreed to talk to Rossario. They were still traumatized by the one-two punch of the accident and the cruelty of the internet, but they decided to go along with her plan. Vendors all over Detroit stepped in to provide everything from dresses, hair, and makeup to the venue and music, and Rossario became an impromptu wedding planner. She also raised $1,300 for them on GoFundMe.
“They wanted to be a part of something good,” she said about the vendors. “They said they’re constantly hearing negative things about Detroit, and to see something positive being done, they wanted to do their part.” That’s also why the Rhodeses decided to have their wedding all over again, even though they were personally satisfied with their first one.
“Detroit already has such a bad name because of different crimes or situations and all of that, so to have some light shine through the city was phenomenal to us,” Janae said. “It was definitely a chance to relive a special day from beginning to end and actually have our hair down about it. I had butterflies this time — I think we both had butterflies this time.”
For their second wedding, at the El Club, more of the Rhodeses’ friends and family were able to attend. While they were “on cloud infinity,” as Janae put it, they almost didn’t realize their other gift — an all-expense-paid honeymoon in Jamaica, which they’ll take next year.
With their daughter on the mend and this wedding behind them, Janae and LaQuint are planning how to use this experience for their future together. They may even write a book about it. “We both have a passion for just encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting others,” Janae said.
Rossario hopes that others can take away another lesson from this story: “Be nicer on social media,” she said. “Social media is not just social media; it’s real life too, and you’re hurting someone’s feelings in real life.”
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